Scientific Committee minutes: October 2002

Minutes of the Scientific Committee of the BMC held in De Morgan House, London at 11.15 a.m. on 14 October 2002.

H. Garth Dales (Chairman), Colin Rourke (Warwick), Rob Curtis and Chris Parker (Birmingham), David Armitage and Martin Mathieu (Belfast), Ken Brown (Glasgow), Helen Robinson (Coventry), John Greenlees (Sheffield), Ulricke Tillman (Oxford), Graham Jameson (Lancaster), Michael Weiss (Aberdeen), Peter Giblin and Hugh Morton (Liverpool).

[Note added January 2003: There was some confusion at the AGM about whether the EMS should have two or three representatives. At the request of the EMS, it has now been agreed that there should be two such representatives: at the present they are M Wiess (Aberdeen), to 31 December 2003, and G Jameson (Lancaster), to 31 December 2004.]

  1. The meeting opened at 11.15, and the Chairman, H G Dales, welcomed everyone to the first meeting of the Scientific Committee of the British Mathematical Colloquium in its new form. He thanked the London Mathematical Society (LMS) for providing the room and for financing the meeting.

  2. The secretary of the Birmingham BMC, Chris Parker, was appointed as secretary of the present meeting.

  3. The Chairman presented a list of the membership of the Committee; a slightly revised form of this is appended to these minutes.

    The Chairman explained that there was some confusion about the number of nominees of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society. He said that he had agreed with the President of the EMS that the EMS would decide shortly whether they wanted to have 2 or 3 nominees, and that the names and periods of office of these nominees would then be confirmed. This arrangement was accepted by the meeting.

    There were apologies from S Pride (EMS).

    The Chairman explained that he had invited C Rourke from the Organising Committee of the BMC in Warwick in 2002 to attend this meeting on an ad hominem basis, so that he could report on the Warwick BMC.

    It was agreed that the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Birmingham BMC be asked to propose to the General Meeting of the BMC in Birmingham that the membership of the Scientific Committee of the BMC be augmented by the addition of one member of the Organising Committee of a particular BMC to the first meeting of the Scientific Committee after that BMC; the purpose of this change is to allow a report on each BMC to be presented orally to the Scientific Committee.

  4. The Chairman presented the document "The future of the BMC", that had been accepted at the General Meeting of the BMC in Warwick and which thus forms the basic constitution of the new committee. He drew attention to several points in the document.

    It was pointed out that some points in the document had been amended at the General Meeting. This document, with amendments, is appended to these minutes.

  5. The minutes of the Scientific Committee Meeting in Warwick, 8 April 2002, were approved and signed by the Chairman.

  6. The future hosts of the BMC for 2006, 2007 and 2008 were considered. Garth Dales reported that Newcastle had shown some informal interest for 2006. Ken Brown suggested that they be encouraged to make a formal bid (by April 2003, Birmingham BMC). The bid is then expected to be accepted at the Birmingham BMC. If the bid is successful, a representative of Newcastle will invite the BMC to Newcastle at the BMC in Belfast in April 2004.

    There was general feeling that the BMC should be held in the South of the UK in 2007 (10 years after Southampton??). Specifically Sussex and Kent were mentioned. Informal contacts/hints would be made by Garth Dales. Ken Brown suggested that an advertisement should be placed in the LMS newsletter inviting bids for the 2007 BMC. This was agreed. There was some discussion about the wording of the advert.

    It is expected that the 2008 BMC will be held jointly with the BAMC (British Applied Mathematics Colloquium). It was agreed that joint BAMC meetings should be held only every three years (2002-2005-2008 etc.). It was noted that we need a large venue for a joint BAMC, but that probably any UK university could host the BMC. It is not certain that the BAMC wants to make the arrangement permanent. There was some uncertainty about the composition of the BAMC Scientific Committee. Colin Rourke agreed to investigate and find the names of the committee.

  7. Garth Dales and Ken Brown explained that to avoid VAT payments the BMC must be reconstituted each year as a separate legal entity. This is why this committee is called the "Scientific Committee". It is "understood" that the LMS will continue funding the BMC at approximately £10k per event (a rolling grant). But the fact that the BMC is repeatedly reconstituted means that we cannot apply for the rolling grant and that each individual BMC host must apply. Ken Brown pointed out that the previous executive secretaries (Ben Garling) indication that funding for the BMC would continue is not legally binding, and that proper applications must be made for each BMC.

    Garth Dales recalled that the BMC in Leeds 2000 received a "purse" belonging to the BMC which contained a reserve fund of £10k. This is now banked by the LMS and the LMS administers it. He also noted that each BMC must keep accounts and that these accounts should be audited.

    Garth Dales suggested that Belfast submit its LMS bid within "days" and that the Liverpool bid should be entered "very soon" after liaising with the BAMC.

    Colin Rourke noted that for the joint meeting in Warwick they applied for £13k from the LMS and were awarded £10k with the understanding that they could have a further £3k if necessary. It was noted that the BAMC grant from the LMS is normally in the region of £3k. Colin Rourke suggested that Liverpool apply for £16k. Garth Dales noted that the applications should include the suggested plenary speakers, as well as emphasising the support to be given to postgraduate students.

    It was noted that the LMS would probably not continue support for the BMC in its present form if it was not successful. However the LMS would probably try to force a reorganisation of the event rather than turning off the money supply instantly. It was noted that the BMC could probably not run without LMS support.
    Colin Rourke reported on the provisional finances of the Warwick BAMC. It was noted that they had negotiated a reduction in the cost of the conference dinner due to the fact that the dinner was disrupted by the false fire alarm which first caused an evacuation of the restaurant during the meal. The reduction was in the region of 25%.

    It was also noted that the "actual" travel costs of the invited plenary speakers were less than the estimated costs by almost 40%.

    On the other hand, because they severely overbooked overnight accommodation, they still owe the University of Warwick £8k. There are ongoing negotiations on this matter. As it stands the Warwick meeting is expected to break even once the final accounts have been determined. It was noted that the Warwick BAMC did not take, and do not expect to take, the extra £3k that the LMS had reserved for them.

    There followed some discussion on secretarial support for the BMC. The Warwick provisional finances show that £2,175 was spent on temporary secretarial support but that this figure in no way reflected the true cost. It was agreed that Belfast could ask for support for secretarial help in the region of £4k but that mathematics departments should expect to make some contribution. There was unanimous support for the statement "we hope that the LMS will support secretarial assistance in the future".

    It was noted that Universities generally offer support only by subsidising some of the services. For example, there have been deals with accommodation costs (Leeds, Warwick), deals on room hire (Birmingham, Warwick).

    There was some advice about accommodation bookings. It was noted that Warwick reserved too many rooms. Leeds booked rooms they knew they could use and reserved some cheaper rooms (120) elsewhere.

    Garth Dales suggested the use of a bank account at a local bank for the BMC funds, rather than working through a University account. This helps ease payments of speakers. Ken Brown pointed out that the large amount of money going through the "research" accounts is helpful for the RAE.

    Chris Parker asked about funds from the Edinburgh Mathematical Society (EMS). Ken Brown replied that the EMS has a centenary fund and could probably offer some support. A figure of £1k was mentioned.

  8. Rob Curtis outlined the plans for the meeting in Birmingham 2003. A draft schedule was tabled. It was noted that there are 5 plenary speakers: Jonathan Alperin (Chicago); George Andrews (Penn. State); John Conway (Princeton); Tim Gowers (Cambridge); Michael Harris (Paris VII). Additionally, Simon Singh has agreed to speak on Wednesday 9th April before the conference dinner. It was suggested that (free) Tickets be issued, that school teachers might be invited, that the press might be alerted. It was mentioned that Simon Singh would be bringing an enigma machine and that a CD Rom which emulates the machine would be included in the conference welcome packs. Garth Dales warned us to be careful about copyright infringements.

    Garth Dales noted that Birmingham had assembled an impressive list of speakers. It was noted that Birmingham has five plenary, sessions rather than the usual four. This was endorsed as a good model for the future.

    There was then discussion about the timetable for the morning sessions. Chris Parker agreed to reschedule some of the talks and consult by e-mail with the committee before a final timetable was set in stone (within days). It was noted that one further morning speaker is required and that the speaker should be a logician. A couple of names were mentioned.

    The special sessions are on: Group Theory, organiser Chris Parker, speakers: Ulrich Meierfrankenfeld (MSU, visiting Kiel), Dan Segal (Oxford), Gunter Malle (Kassel) Malle as not yet accepted (now declined).

    Analytic Topology, organiser Chris Good, speakers: Prof Steve Watson, York University, North York, Toronto, Canada, Prof Jan van Mill, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This special session will be part of the satellite meeting "Galway Topology", which will run in Birmingham from the Monday morning to the Thursday afternoon.

    Matliematics education and university mathematics, organisers Joe Kyle, Tony Gardiner, speakers: Kjeld Laursen (Copenhagen, Denmark), Ron Aharoni (Haifa).

    Splinter sessions were described and chairs discussed. An extra splinter session in Algebra was added. Poster sessions were discussed. It seemed to be a consensus that at least 50% of the talks at splinter sessions should be organised in advance. It was pointed out that graduate students should be encouraged to speak at splinter sessions.

    It was suggested by Garth Dales that Birmingham once again leans on Warwick, Leicester. Coventry, and Nottingham to organise satellite meetings.

    Garth Dales suggested that local banks be contacted for sponsorship. Rob Curtis mentioned that 7 publishers have been contacted for book exhibitions. It was mentioned also that the charge to the publishers would be £1.20 per registered delegate to the BMC.

  9. Martin Mathieu reported on the preparations for the Belfast BMC. See attached paper. Garth Dales suggested they should have a list of at least ten potential plenary speakers. A further 4 names were suggested. It was also noted that they should write to the potential plenary speakers very soon. It was noted that the Irish Mathematics Society were contributing 2000 euro, and that they had moved their annual September meeting to April so that the meeting could be a joint one.

    Garth Dales suggested that the Scientific Committee should be more systematic about the selection of morning speakers. It was suggested that Martin Mathieu and the other Belfast organizers should make a list of potential morning speakers. This list should have two or three speakers in five or six mathematical areas. There was a slight preference for "younger" speakers or speakers who were new to the British mathematical community. It was felt that there should be at most four overseas speakers from the total of 16 morning speakers.

    Finally it was pointed out that Monday would be a "graduate student" day in Belfast. The postgraduates would then arrive on Sunday and present talks to their peers. It was suggested that they could invite a speaker who may present an instructional session on an area of mathematics that will help the students to appreciate the presentation of one of the plenary speakers. There was some discussion about possible EPSRC educational courses in the week preceding the BMC. It was thought that not many postgraduates would want to be two weeks from their studies.

  10. Peter Giblin reported on the preparations for the joint BMC/AMC meeting in Liverpool for 2005. The meeting would run from 4th April to 7th April 2005. The meeting would be in parallel rather than in series (Warwick was in series). There may be dual plenary talks (one pure, one applied). BAMC has 6 parallel morning sessions and over 100 contributed talks. It was agreed that the BMC should continue with its tradition of invited morning speakers.

The meeting closed at 4:20 pm.

Minutes signed by Chris Parker